Intelys SA mid-size market grapples the cloud headache

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South Africa’s mid-size enterprises are keen to explore the benefits of the cloud, but few have a clear roadmap for doing so, says Neal Daines, Operations Director at Juniper partner and network experts Intelys Technology Africa.

“People have been talking cloud for some time, but in reality, not many have made a significant move to cloud yet. We’re seeing customers saying ‘we know it’s time to move that way, but where do we begin?’ What many are doing is putting a very cautious toe in the water, moving non mission-critical applications like e-mail to the cloud. But we have a long way to go before we can consider cloud as mainstream,” he says.

Daines says the local mid-size businesses that make up the bulk of the Intelys client base have a number of cloud concerns in common. “The security concern has not gone away. On top of that, there are the questions around how and when to make the move, what to move first, and what impact the migration will have on operations. They’re wondering about control, maintenance and management when half of their systems and applications are sitting in one place, and the other half in their own data centres,” he says. “Then there are questions around which service providers to partner with – this is a relatively new arena, with many new players and few of them have a lengthy cloud track record.”

Daines recommends that the journey start with a thorough assessment of the existing environment and the benefits the business hopes to gain from the cloud. “Not every system, application or business stands to gain from the cloud. It is important to assess what will be moved to the cloud and what the risks and benefits will be of doing so.”

He warns that migrating to the cloud isn’t ‘like flicking a switch’. “It can be a fairly lengthy process. You have to have a strategy in place, and crucially, you have to ensure your current environment is ready to migrate,” he says.

Preparing for the big move entails simplifying the environment and ensuring that the data centre is flexible, agile and secured with multiple layers of security, including next generation firewalls like Juniper’s SRX Services Gateways. Factors that must be taken into consideration when moving to cloud include the security of data traffic, and the bandwidth between the various data centres, he says. “Planning should include all areas of risk, the issue of data flows, and even the question of the right cloud service providers: what bandwidth they offer at the back end, what their response times are, and their geographic network and hosting footprint.”

“It helps to have the right partner who will make the big leap into unknown easier. The right partner will help the business to evaluate to find the right technologies, service providers and cost models,” says Daines. “While the first moves into the cloud may seem risky for some, for many companies – including our own – being completely cloud-based is proving to be the only way to go.”